Adult Health

How Sleep Deprivation Can Make You Stupid

Written by andy

Here’s the link between sleep and smarts…

It’s a well-known fact that your sleep habits can play a role on your cognitive function. Sleep deprivation can cause attention problems, to the point that most states warn that driving tired is as bad as driving drunk. The reduced cognition resulting from insufficient sleep can cause serious performance problems in just about every job.

If there is one group of individuals that tend to be chronically sleep-deprived, it’s students. Between the long hours of class, plenty of homework, the regular parties/hang-outs, and a side job or two to earn money to pay the bills, students spend very little time sleeping. Many have resorted to using drugs to stimulate their brains due to the fact that they’re just so darn tired.

But did you know that not getting enough sleep can actually make you stupid? Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night for more than a week will do more than just impair your cognitive function–it can actually cause degradation of your brain power!

A study in the journal SLEEP examined the sleep habits of nearly 60 students between the ages of 15 and 19. Over the course of one week, the students were divided into two groups. One group slept for a solid nine hours per night, while the others only slept for five hours. The students’ sleep activity was monitored using an EEG machine.

READ MORE: Lack of Sleep vs Blood Alcohol Level

After their sleep periods, all of the students underwent cognitive assessments. Three times per day, they were given tests to analyze cognitive performance. The students who slept nine hours per day not only maintained a healthy brain function, but in many cases they made GAINS in their ability to solve problems.

But the five-hour sleep group saw the opposite effect. They had a hard time paying attention for long periods of time, and their working memory decreased. Their executive functions and alertness suffered, and their moods went from positive to negative. Despite regular practice of similar problems, their performance of the cognitive tests decreased by the end of the week.

What’s worse is that just a few nights of proper sleep may not be enough to reverse the damage! Even after two nights of nine hours of sleep, the cognitive effects were not fully reversed. The reduction in cognitive function remained even after “normal” sleep patterns were established.

That’s a pretty scary discovery! Just a week of missing sleep can have serious detrimental effect on your brain function and academic performance. Just imagine how much worse things get after a few weeks or months of poor sleep habits. Your attention will suffer, your mood will darken, your executive functions will decline, and your working memory will decrease. All because you aren’t sleeping well!

Yes, getting a good night’s sleep is often easier said than done, especially if you’re a college student. Between work and school, you have very little time off. Most students would rather spend that time in recreation than sleep, but perhaps it’s time to help students realize that sleeping is the better choice. After all, if they don’t sleep, their brain function can suffer.

The same goes for all you working parents and professionals. It’s vital that you try to get as much sleep as possible, and establish healthy sleep habits. If you don’t, you may find that the reduction in cognitive function can have negative repercussions, both at work and at home! You need all the brain power you can get to be a productive professional and raise healthy children, so it’s in your best interest to sleep well at night.


About the author


Some people get lucky and are born with fit, toned bodies. Andy Peloquin is not one of those people... Fitness has come hard for him, and he's had to work for it. His trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, an NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise, diet and healthy living. He loves to exercise--he does so six days a week--and loves to share his passion for fitness and health with others.

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